With hearts firmly planted on sleeves, Bruce Springsteen’s 2017 tour is a timely gritty reminder of The Boss’ message and enduring talent.
You’re bound to notice a few things on Bruce Springsteen’s Summer ’17 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
One thing is that the show is unmistakably flavoured by recent events in US politics – the show opened in a toned-down, almost muted manner with New York City Serenade (from 1973’s The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle), a ten minute slow burn of a thing, which tonally – if not lyrically – said a lot about where The Boss was in the immediate aftermath of the 45th President’s inauguration. For the first hour or so, and throughout the epic show, so many of his songs could easily be interpreted as shots of protest fired at the new administration.
His headline-making opening salvo about the global women’s marches set the overall tone for the evening; “It’s good to be here in Western Australia We’re a long way from home, and our hearts and spirits are with the hundreds of thousands of women and men who marched yesterday in every city in America, and in Melbourne, (who) rallied against hate and division, and in support of tolerance, inclusion, reproductive rights, civil rights, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, the environment, wage equality, gender equality, healthcare and immigrant rights. We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.” A great number of the songs, touching on his career-long thematic benchmarks of salt-of-the-earth working people, struggling for promise and the great American dream, have an extra layer of relevance, or pertinence, given the state of the world – specifically the US – right now. Saxophonist Jake Clemons raising both his hands in the air during American Skin (41 Shots) was a telling and powerful tip of the hat to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We stand with you. We are the new American resistance.”
The Boss performed 30 songs; surprisingly six of them were from Born in the USA – something that was curious more than anything else, in that I had not actually heard Working on the Highway since the last time I listened to that album. An audience request had him sing Blood Brothers for what one is lead to believe is only the fourth time in concert, and the first since 2008.
The second noticeable thing being that if you are – like me – somehow in the position of having never seen Springsteen live before, getting an introduction to his crowd and fan base is something else. I’ve considered myself something of a Springsteen fan to one degree or another since owning the cassette of Born in the USA back when it was new and I was all of nine years old. I’ve got a handful of his albums since then (some, like Wrecking Ball and Magic are great; others, like High Hopes and Working on a Dream… not so) but no matter what, I’m always keen to hear something new come from the studio. But then you see the actual fans. The diehard fans, the devotees – the ones who the cameras catch here and there, at any given point during the 195 minute show, who know every single last lyric to every single song. That’s a level of fandom I just don’t experience.
You can call out any number of highlights from the evening; Because the Night resonates because it’s such a brilliant song, as is Badlands – and I felt actual, genuine emotion while singing along to Born to Run, to the point where I had to stop because crying is not really my thing, usually.
He’s an astonishing performer, infused with passion and vocal prowess which belies his 67 years.
It was, at the end of the night, the consummate rock and roll arena show.
This piece was originally published on The Lesser Column as ‘Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’